September 21, 2020

Crosstown Crisis?

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Not A Crowded House

Normally the annual “Crosstown Classic” series between Chicago’s Cubs and White Sox are an automatic sellout at U.S. Cellular Field as Sox fans love nothing more than to see their team whip up on the Cubs and also impugn the testosterone of all Cubs fans who dare to wander down to the South Side.

But this week’s series was not a sellout as the three crowds at the Cell were 36,005 in Monday’s 6-3 victory for the Cubs, 35,155 on Tuesday when both teams endured a one hour 44 minute rain delay before the Sox won, 3-2 and then on Wednesday there was yet another below-capacity South Side crowd of 35,403 as the Sox took the rubber match, 4-3.

All those who even peripherally follow Chicago baseball know that the White Sox normally don’t pack them in and the reasons for that require more space and energy than presently available.  But an exception has always been either when the Sox are playing great (Sox fans are picky, discerning, cynical and cheap) or when the Cubs pay a visit.  So why not this year?  The speculation is rampant: two bad teams, (though the Sox are very, very, very slowly approaching .500 and respectability) bad weather, (but the games should have sold out long before the weather forecast became known) or perhaps a poor economy.

The answer is probably in all these things and there must be other reasons as well.  Major League attendance has been down this year but MLB says baseball actually had its best weekend of attendance in nearly three years just last weekend as 1,646,000 fans pushed through the gates.  That attendance surge was boosted – painfully if you’re a White Sox fan – by the Yankees’ visit to Wrigley Field which sold out all three games for a pretty entertaining series against the Cubs which leads us to another possible factor in the Crosstown’s relatively paltry attendance – the games were played during the week.  The White Sox and Cubs normally meet for a weekend series and will do so when the series shifts north for the first weekend in July but the games at U.S. Cellular were on a Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday.   When I first saw this I thought it was likely done because the Sox wanted the games during the week when crowds are normally smaller so as not to waste a weekend payoff on a series that would draw no matter what days they were played.  If that’s the case the gamble appears not to have paid off as the crowd – as fervent and Sox-supportive as it was – was also a bit embarrassing.  Can’t even sellout for the Cubs?

It’s a tough call.  And  – again painfully if you’re a Sox fan – the Cubs and Yankees probably factor into this.  The South Side games are always dominated by Sox fans, of course, as were this week’s but there are also a healthy number of Cubs supporters and maybe too many of them spent their money to see the Yankees at Wrigley and so shied away from plucking down more big bucks for a “premium game” – with the cheapest tickets, I believe, $50.  By game day, tickets were going much cheaper but the enthusiasm just didn’t seem to be there.  Yes, Sox fans would rather have four thousand empty seats than have them filled by Cubs fans but it’s just a shame that the Sox aren’t drawing.  I don’t blame the fans.  I’m one of them and I’ve only been to one game so far this season and while I do have tickets in hand for a few more coming up I can’t pledge to go to the 15 or 20 I’d like each summer.

The fans who stayed away and chose instead to watch Chicago’s ill-starred nines on TV or listen on radio would have been served well to be there in person as all three games proved entertaining and full of star power, (yes, Paul Konerko is generating Hall of Fame talk…at least by me he is, but that’s for another post – coming soon) fireworks – Ozzie Guillen getting tossed, Jake Peavy and A.J. Pierzynski nearly exchanging fists – and, if you’re a South Sider, a modicum of hope.  The White Sox triumphed over the Cubs again and have now won 17 straight interleague series.  That’s right, the White Sox are the best team in the National League.  But there are dark clouds in Chicago’s normally roseate baseball skies.  The talk all over the South Side is that Ozzie will be a goner after the season, off to either manage the Florida Marlins or hold Jack McKeon’s catheter.  If Ozzie leaves, the Sox will survive but the Medias Blancas will be a team suddenly in search of identity – and fans.

Even in Wrigleyville the sunshine is often supplanted by cynicism these days as Cubs fans are tired of a bad team with a huge payroll and owners who seem more corporate than Maverick.  That’s right.  Remember how many times we heard that Mark Cuban wanted to buy the Cubs but baseball’s owners didn’t want him in their club?  What have Cubs fans been thinking since seeing Cuban hoist the trophy for his NBA team?  Would that be the Cubs if Cuban held the deed to the Friendly Confines?  Probably not.  Maybe if Ozzie leaves Chicago then Cuban can manage the White Sox.  People would love to see it.  They would pay.


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